An argument between two visitors to New Orleans sparked a gunfight early Sunday on Bourbon Street, police said, leaving a young Baton Rouge artist dead and nine others injured in a spray of bullets that sent hundreds of early morning partiers running in terror.
The bloodshed in the 100 block of Bourbon, near Iberville Street, eerily echoed the carnage from a two-man gun battle six blocks away on the same street in June 2014.
The return of a mass gun attack on the city’s most famous entertainment corridor left Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Gov. John Bel Edwards and others groping for calming words as a national spotlight returned to a city already reeling from a recent swell of shooting sprees and murders.
New Orleans police had yet to identify either perpetrator by late Sunday. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said both fled on foot, apparently unharmed. Pleading for the public’s help, Harrison described the mass shooting as an “act of brazen cowards.”
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None of the victims — including slain 25-year-old tattoo artist Demontris Toliver — appeared to have been targets, Harrison added. He said agents with the FBI, the ATF and other law enforcement organizations had joined in the manhunt.
Only one of the shooting victims, a 21-year-old Mississippi man, is from outside Louisiana. Two — both 22-year-old men who were released with minor injuries — are from New Orleans, police said.
Harrison described it as an argument that began elsewhere, migrated to Bourbon Street and “turned to a shootout.”
“They made a choice to endanger the lives of thousands of visitors and residents who were in the area,” Harrison said of the shooters. “I’m confident we will track down those responsible for the crimes. We will hold them accountable for their actions.”
Toliver was with friends, joining the crowds in town for festivities surrounding the Bayou Classic football game that took place Saturday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when he was struck down, a friend, Aaron Washington, told The New Orleans Advocate.
The young artist was shot in the chest and shoulder blade area and died at the hospital, police said. His slaying marked the 162nd homicide this year in New Orleans — a figure the city reached last year on Dec. 29, according to Jeff Asher, a former city crime analyst.
Landrieu described Toliver’s killing as “a tragic death for what would otherwise have been a very promising life.”
The mayor also credited the NOPD and State Police with a “heroic” response, saying there were 35 officers within a block at the time of the shooting and Emergency Medical Services personnel at the corner. He called the response “immediate,” “aggressive” and “robust.”
The victims, including Toliver, were eight men and two women ranging in age from 20 to 37, Harrison told reporters before daybreak Sunday.
By late afternoon, five had been released from the hospital. The four other surviving victims were being treated and were expected to recover, police said.